10 Museum Exhibitions You’ll Be Talking About This Winter

“Peter Fischli David Weiss: How to Work Better” at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, February 5 - April 27, 2016. (The Way Things Go by Fischli and Weiss. Photo: Courtesy of The Guggenheim Museum)
New York’s swirling Guggenheim is arguably the perfect space for these artists' bizarre investigations of space, form and movement, each spun with a wicked sense of humor. The Swiss duo, most known for The Way Things Go, 1987 (a jaw-dropping video work of Rube-Goldbergian sculptures with physical and chemical triggers), will undoubtedly present a fantastic survey of their clay and urethane sculptures, films, magazine advertisements and more. On top of this jam-packed retrospective, curated by the venerable Nancy Spector, two new public works by Fischli/Weiss will appear on the streets of New York: a mural on Houston Street and a video piece that will hover over Times Square. The exhibition will also double as a tribute to the late Weiss, who passed away in 2012.
“Alma Thomas: A Retrospective” at The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., February 6 - June 5, 2016. (Alma Thomas, Apollo 12 Splash Down, 1970. Photo: Courtesy of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum)
An overlooked 20th-century African-American artist who is now getting the recognition she deserves (partly due to first lady Michelle Obama hanging two of her paintings at the White House), Alma Thomas (1891-1978) will be the subject of a retrospective at this beautiful and underrated university museum. Though she was often associated with the so-called “Washington Color School,” Thomas’ elegant output dwarfed this classification thanks to a unique perspective and an undeniable talent with paint. Her status should be bumped up to “American treasure” as soon as possible.
“Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective” at The Museum of Modern Art, New York City, February 14 - May 15, 2016. (Marcel Broodthaers. Armoire blanche et table blanche / White Cabinet and White Table). 1965. © 2015 Estate of Marcel Broodthaers/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SABAM, Brussels)
It’s not often that an art critic becomes a fine artist in order to make more money, but that is exactly what this writer and poet did in Belgium in the middle of the 20th century. The brilliant and quixotic Broodthaers had a fantastic eye as well as a predictive view of the future of art; taking Duchamp’s legacy of objet trouvé art and running with it long before it became fashionable. His rich and poetic sculptures and paintings made from eggshells, hats and mussels still hold enormous seductive power, and thanks to him, all the hipsters in the city feel the need to put potted plants in their exhibitions. It’s frankly unbelievable that this is his first New York museum retrospective, but it should end up a high point for a museum that has been on a roll of late.
“O’Keeffe, Stettheimer, Torr, Zorach: Women Modernists in New York” at Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Fla., February 18 - May 15, 2016. (Marguerite Thompson Zorach, Prohibition, 1920. Photo: Courtesy of the Norton Museum of Art)
Here’s an important show that brings the work of four compelling female Modernist artists—Marguerite Zorach, Florine Stettheimer, Helen Torr and Georgia O’Keeffe—together for the first time. The show focuses on the “feminine” side of Modernism and what that means for artists who were determined not to be defined by their sex. Both masters of their craft and trailblazers for modern sexual identity, the influence of these four women is immeasurable, and their fingerprints can be found all over the art world today.
“Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933 - 1957” at The Hammer Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, February 21- May 15, 2016. (Xanti Schawinsky teaching a portraiture class, n.d. Photo by Helen Post Modley. Courtesy Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina, Asheville, NC)
This is the first comprehensive look at the North Carolina school that changed the direction of 20th century American art. An interdisciplinary and experimental college that gave equal attention to both visual arts and applied arts (as well as architecture, poetry, music and dance), Black Mountain was clever enough to hire future icons like Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage and Buckminster Fuller as faculty, and predictably, a bevy of all-star students followed, including Robert Rauschenberg, Elaine de Kooning, Cy Twombly and many more. The Hammer will display a vast array of paintings, sculptures, weavings and pottery produced during the legendary 14-year run of the school, alongside documentary photographs, poetry books, sound works and live performances. A must see for serious art lovers.
“Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” at theArt Institute of Chicago, Chicago, February 14 - May 10, 2016. (Vincent Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles, Third version, end September 1889. Photo: Courtesy of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris)
This will be the first show ever to explore the three (and only three) paintings that Vincent Van Gogh made of his bedroom in Arles, France, over his lifespan. Thirty-six related works will be on view, along with ephemera owned by the artist himself. There will even be a digitally enhanced reconstruction of the room inside the museum, so viewers can stand in the shoes of one of the most beloved—and talented—nutballs to ever pick up a paintbrush.
“International Pop” at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA, February 24 - May 15, 2016. (Kudos Tetsumi, Olympic Winners Platform (Pollution Olympics—Pollution Game—L'art presentment), 1970-72. Photo: Courtesy of the Walker Art Center)
Pop Art’s embrace of popular culture and imagery became a worldwide phenomenon that we’re all familiar with, but the always on-point Philadelphia Museum of Art will give us an in-depth look at an influence that found its way around the world. This show includes a surprising array of Pop Artists from Japan, Brazil, Poland and practically every other distant shore or mountaintop on the earth. The exhibition, which was curated by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, features 120 artworks by superstars like Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Ed Ruscha, and lesser-known Pop practitioners such as Brazilian artist Antonio Dias and the Icelandic artist Erró.
“The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip” at Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, Ark., February 27 - May 30, 2016.( Joel Meyerowitz, Florida, 1970. Photo: Courtesy of Aperture Foundation, New York)
“The Open Road,” organized by the photo gurus at the Aperture Foundation, features over 100 images by 19 photographers (from the 1950s to today) on the topic of hitting the highway. This star-studded list of button-pushers includes Robert Frank, Ed Ruscha, Garry Winogrand, William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore, Alec Soth, Justine Kurland and more. Together, they investigate the symbolic freedom and temporal beauty of our country’s unique car culture.
Opening of The Met Breuer, Madison Avenue and 75th Street, New York City, March 2016. (The Met Breuer. Photo: Courtesy of Wiki Commons)
Architect Marcel Breuer finally gets his name attached to his beloved Brutalist building, courtesy of its new tenant, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (The Whitney Museum is leasing the space to its uptown elder cousin.) The “Met Breuer,” as it’s now called, will open in March and will be inaugurated by three exhibitions: “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible,” 197 works from the Renaissance to today that consider what completion means to an artwork; a retrospective of the exceptional Indian Modernist painter Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990); and a series of performances by the Met’s current artist-in-residence, Vijay Iyer. Heads up: This is the biggie on New York’s spring art and social calendar.
“Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium” J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, Calif., March 15, 2016 - July 31, 2016; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, March 20, 2016 - July 31, 2016. (Robert Mapplethorpe, Thomas, negative 1987; print 1994. Photo: © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation)
This photographer’s career was just too big for one museum, which is why this survey sprawls across both the LACMA and the Getty in Los Angeles. Very few artists have so successfully rendered the abject, or “alternative,” as seductively and beautifully as Mapplethorpe, and this survey emphatically proves that point with a treasure trove of drawings, collages, Polaroids and photographs. Mapplethorpe was an exploratory force in his brief time, but fortunately we still get to muse on and marvel at his landmark images of power and sympathy.

We’ve highlighted some of the country’s top museum exhibitions that open this winter— shows that feature long-overlooked American treasures, historically important Europeans and moments in art history that changed everything.

But don’t worry: star artists also abound, from a “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” exhibition in Chicago to a two-museum mega-retrospective of iconic renegade Robert Mapplethorpe in Los Angeles.

We even have what is sure to become a beloved new institution opening right here in the heart in New York City this March. So mark these down; you won’t want to miss them.

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